A group of people who lived or worked near an urban oil field blamed for causing chronic respiratory illnesses and nosebleeds in a neighborhood near USC sued the company that owned the closed facility on December 10. The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit names as a defendant AllenCo Energy Inc., which in July 2014 agreed to pay a $99,000 penalty for violations of federal environmental laws. The penalty was in addition to the ongoing work identified in an April 2014 consent agreement between AllenCo Energy Inc. and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The civil suit alleges negligence, fraud, nuisance, trespass, intentional infliction of emotional distress and strict liability for ultrahazardous activity. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. AllenCo spokesman Peter Whittingham could not be immediately reached.
Some of the mostly low-income residents in the area lived about 25 feet from the 23rd Street facility, the suit states. AllenCo voluntarily shut down the oil field in November 2013 at the request of Sen. Barbara Boxer. Many of the plaintiffs suffered cancer, respiratory ailments, nosebleeds, headaches and kidney and liver issues, the suit alleges.
The company did not disclose to the plaintiffs that “ingestion, inhalation and exposure to toxic substances” generated by the oil field were carcinogenic, the suit states. The EPA’s November 2013 inspection, prompted by community complaints regarding emissions coming from the facility, found that AllenCo was in violation of the General Duty Clause of the Clean Air Act because it failed to maintain a safe facility by not taking steps necessary to prevent accidental releases of hazardous substances.
EPA also found that AllenCo was in violation of the Clean Water Act, which requires onshore oil production facilities that may discharge oils into waterways to prepare and implement a spill prevention and control plan. In addition, the federal investigation found that AllenCo failed to submit chemical inventory forms for the hazardous substances stored at the facility as required by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, EPA officials said.
As part of a consent agreement reached with the EPA in 2014, AllenCo was obligated to continue to make changes and improvements at the facility and to certify with the agency that the work is completed at least 15 days prior to re- opening the facility. AllenCo estimated it would spend about $700,000 for improvements at the facility, which will include the actions required by the EPA’s order.